When I got the call offering me the position of Director of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office I didn’t hesitate to say YES! Returning to a SHPO had always been my long-term plan, having started my preservation career with seven years at the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office, before moving to work on the Federal agency side of Section 106. Throughout my years as the architectural historian subject matter expert for the Army Reserve, then as the Deputy Federal Preservation Officer for the Department of Defense, I suspect I earned myself the label of “SHPO Sympathizer”. I rarely passed up the opportunity to remind my Fed friends that SHPOs have a heavy workload of many more programs beyond Section 106. I also took every chance to underscore the vital role of SHPOs in the Section 106 process, and to reiterate that they are NOT there to stand in the way of Federal projects. At the same time, I am a strong proponent of SHPO staff being “customer service” orientated and conscientious of how we interact with and are perceived by the public and other state and federal agencies. Over the last ten years I have had a chance to work on multiple projects with many SHPO offices, which has given me great perspective on how much SHPO strengths and challenges can vary.
I believe that one of the traits of a successful SHPO is to be responsive to the needs and priorities of the communities we serve. It is extremely important to regularly evaluate how well we are balancing community needs with the many state and Federal requirements while maintaining our core mission of preserving and promoting Pennsylvania’s historic resources and heritage.
Luckily for me, in 2012 Pennsylvania released its new Statewide Historic Preservation Plan. This five-year plan was the result of many hours of work by SHPO staff, much input from our preservation partners and lots of public feedback. While developing a statewide preservation plan takes a lot of work, implementing it can take just as much! That’s where I come in! As almost two years have passed since the plan’s official release, one of my first priorities is to undertake a “status check” on how we are progressing in fulfilling the goals and objectives. I am confident that some objectives have been met or are well on their way; however others may need greater attention and possibly reevaluation. I am a strong proponent of leveraging resources through partnerships (both formal and informal), and I plan to reach out not only to fellow preservationists, but also explore new opportunities to work with other state, local and Federal entities, to accomplish some of the broader goals of the statewide historic preservation plan.
I recognize that having only been with the Pennsylvania SHPO since December 2, 2013 it is early days and I am still operating in “Sponge Mode” which involves soaking up large amounts of information through lots of listening and lots of questions. With the passage of time however, I will gain a greater understanding of Pennsylvania’s unique (and some not so unique) challenges, pressures and priorities that shape our landscape and environment. I will do my best to make informed discussions, support my staff and work with the many organizations throughout the Commonwealth to safeguard Pennsylvania’s irreplaceable heritage. I look forward to working with many of you and I am thrilled to have this opportunity to be part of promoting, reusing and preserving Pennsylvania’s historic and cultural places!